Who Should Report on Judges’ Sentences–Federal Panel or Journalists?

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Legal-affairs writer Mark Obbie suggests that more journalists seek ways to report on specific criminal-justice trends for profit. Obbie was commenting on a post by former federal trial judge and now Harvard law professor Nancy Gertner, who complained to the Sentencing Law and Policy blog that the U.S. Sentencing Commission reports only on appellate court decisions on sentencing, not those made on the trial court level. If the commission is interested in minimizing disparity in sentencing, shouldn’t it take steps to communicate the opinions of district court judges more broadly to the federal bench, Gertler asks.

To Obbie, this suggests the need for a “very, very narrow newsletter that does what Gertner claims is lacking in the information marketplace.” Obbie says that
with fewer news organizations paying staff to report on the courts and legal policy, and with fewer magazines commissioning fewer long-form stories on this and most other topics, journalists need new sources of income.” He suggests that some should produce newsletters on topics like criminal sentencing.

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